Monday, 21 May 2012

Yemen: At least 63 dead in suicide bomb attack in Sana'a

According to Yemeni officials, at least 63 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack during a rehearsal for a military parade in Sana'a. A suicide bomber, reportedly wearing an army uniform, detonated a bomb among a group of soldiers at al-Sabin Square, near the presidential palace.

Witnesses reported that the remains of the victims were scattered across the Square, as ambulances rushed to the area to take the dozens of wounded to hospital. This latest attack has been the deadliest in the capital since President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took power in February.

In recent months, there have been almost daily casualties in battles in the mountainous southern desert and towns between government forces, backed by US military advisers, and militants linked to al-Qa'ida. Sana'a, however, has been relatively quiet up to now. Some suggest that the latest attack is a message to the new president the he can expect more confrontations between the army and the militants.

Speaking about the incident, Col Amin al-Alghabati said: “We were in a parade, suddenly there was a huge explosion. Dozens of our men were killed. We tried to help them…The suicide bomber was dressed in a military uniform. He had a belt of explosives underneath.”

Yemen's Defence Minister Nasser Ahmed and the army chief-of-staff were reportedly in the Square at the time, but were not hurt. According to medical officials quoted by AFP news agency at least 96 soldiers had been killed and 300 wounded, who they said were being treated in seven hospitals across Sana'a.

Yemeni military personnel had been practising for a parade for National Unity Day on Tuesday 22nd May, which marks the anniversary of the 1990 unification of the Marxist People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, also known as South Yemen, and the Yemen Arab Republic, known as North Yemen.

Today's attack comes just over a week after the military launched an offensive against Islamist militants linked to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the southern province of Abyan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

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